Wild Wildlife Superstitions

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GaWild Masthead: Scarlet calamint (Alan Cressler)

3 reasons to see Ohoopee Dunes … now

Ohoopee Dunes. Marc Del Santro

   On Tuesday morning near Swainsboro, a crowd will gather at Ohoopee Dunes Wildlife Management Area to celebrate the completion of educational and recreational improvements at the WMA, features such as an interpretive trail and small-craft boat ramp.
   The public is welcomed, and short tours will follow the ceremony at the McLeod Bridge Tract (details).
   But if you can’t attend, here are three reasons you should visit Ohoopee Dunes. Soon.

Scarlet calamint (Alan Cressler)

   1. Columnist Charles Seabrook was right: Ohoopee Dunes is one of Georgia’s natural wonders you “must see” before you die. Featuring ancient riverine sandhills -- some rising 120 feet above the Little Ohoopee River -- and rare ecological communities, the site is a blend of unique plants and animals in a Spartan setting. Seabrook, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, included the area as number 10 on a list of 35 (along with George L. Smith State Park, also in Emanuel County.)
   2. The new 1.9-mile trail offers an easy and enlightening hike, looping through habitats varying from xeric dunes to pocosin wetlands. Signage designed to fit the area's stark nature explains the surroundings; a sandhills pond, lichens and spikemoss, the role of fire in these natural systems, a rosemary bald, “cat-faced” pines that harken to the turpentine industry, and more. A trail spur leads to the floodplain. “It’s all of the different communities that are part of the Ohoopee Dunes,” said Dr. Mincy Moffett Jr., a botanist with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section.
   3. Fall is a prime time to see Ohoopee Dunes. Temperatures are cooler, insects are fewer and many wildflowers are in bloom. Moffett, who has led restoration work at the WMA, said the visual appeal includes scarlet calamint, woody goldenrod and blazing star species. But, not surprisingly for someone sold on conserving and appreciating this area, he also said, “There’s something there any time of the year.”

Ohoopee details

  • The WMA is made up of three tracts on the upper Little Ohoopee River. The DNR also cooperates in managing an adjacent tract owned by The Nature Conservancy and another nearby owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The five tracts make up a nearly 3,000-acre conservation area.
  • Like to fish? When the water level is right, fishing can be good on the Little Ohoopee for everything from redbreast sunfish to largemouth bass and pickerel. The new boat ramp on the Hall’s Bridge Tract is sized for johnboats, canoes and other small crafts. Efforts also continue to create a canoe trail section on the river stretching from the WMA’s middle tract at Ga. 80 to the Hall’s Bridge Tract.

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Out my backdoor

Argiope spider (Terry Johnson)

’Tis the season for superstition

By Terry W. Johnson
   Most folks enjoy having wildlife living just outside their backdoor. But that hasn’t always been the case. In times past, people often either took their wildlife neighbors for granted or honestly believed that many of them were imbued with frightening magical powers.
   Worse yet, some thought they were cavorting with witches and ghosts.
   Many of these superstitions and myths have been handed down for generations and linger on to this day. This is especially true of a handful of animals that are doomed to be forever linked to Halloween.
   Here is a small collection of some of the bizarre myths and superstitions that concern some of our most familiar backyard residents … from owls to crows and spiders to snails.

Read the rest of Terry’s column for an amazing look at how owls and other common wildlife used to cast a shadow of fear, particularly at this time of year.

Terry W. Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division and executive director of TERN, the Nongame Conservation Section’s friends group. Column archives.

Barred owl (Josiah Lavender)

Don't fear the creature

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From ditch to bog to classroom

Savannah teacher earns $1,000 grant for wetland plan

   Thanks to a financial boost from DNR’s $1,000 Teaching Conservation grant, a Savannah science teacher will see his vision of an outdoor bog classroom come to life.
   Bill Eswine, a science specialist at Savannah Country Day School, was recently awarded the grant for his “Bog Diversity – An Outdoor Classroom” project, which will turn a large drainage ditch on the school campus into a bog habitat where students can learn about wetland wildlife.
   "Since we already had bullfrogs, leopard frogs and a lot of native plant species in that area, we thought it would be great if we could turn it into a bog – a site that would be an outdoor classroom,” said Eswine, who has directed a coastal ecology summer camp in the Savannah area since 1982. 


   The grant, which has been met with a matching private donation, is provided by The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, friends group of the Nongame Conservation Section. The section awards the grant annually to a third- through fifth-grade public or private school teacher in Georgia who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences.
   Although the ditch may not look like much now, Eswine says the future site will allow his students to observe the diverse wildlife in a bog habitat, as well as study hydrology and the potential effects of pollution, climate change and other threats to natural bogs, a fragile and often-overlooked ecosystem.
   “Most people see (the ditch) as an ugly site and would fill it in, but it really is a unique habitat and we wanted to highlight that for our kids. They’re the stewards of the future and we want them to look at things appropriately.”

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Wildlife tags at work

   From the editor: Many of you know that Georgia’s eagle and hummingbird license plates provide more than half of the funds raised to conserve nongame wildlife. And that the DNR Nongame Conservation Section receives no state funding for our mission to preserve and restore nongame animals, plants and their habitats. But do you know what these efforts look like; in short, what wildlife tags do? Starting in this issue, we'll provide a series of snapshots that answer that question. If you have questions or comments, please email me.

Rick Lavender

Trina Morris on bat survey (Pete Pattavina/USFWS)

Funding the battle for bats

   White-nose syndrome has killed bats by the millions, and Georgia’s bats aren’t going unscathed. The disease first reported in New York in 2006-2007 turned up here in 2013. The following winter, DNR surveys documented a 36-percent decline in known bat hibernacula in north Georgia.
   Money from the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund, which the eagle and hummingbird plates support, is being used to match a State Wildlife Grant to monitor white-nose and raise awareness among cavers and other cave users. (While bat-to-bat transmission is considered the primary path for spreading the fungus, humans can introduce it by carrying contaminated gear into “clean” caves.)
   Bat biologist Trina Morris of the Nongame Conservation Section spent last weekend working the TAG Fall Cave-in, an annual event that draws cavers from Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee to Lookout Mountain. Her goal: Continue talking with cavers, cave owners and conservation groups to raise awareness about limiting winter trips into caves and following decontamination protocols for disinfecting clothes and gear, all part of DNR’s white-nose response plan.
   And this winter, Morris will return to the caves to again monitor the disease's devastating impact.

WNS in Georgia

Our thanks …

To those who took part in the wildlife plates survey in the Sept. 29 issue. We’ve picked an eagle tag winner for this round, but stay tuned: We plan to give away another eagle plate later this fall!

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   A “new” right whale calf has been documented off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In May, researchers conducting an aerial survey spotted the North Atlantic right whale calf with an adult female that had not been seen with young earlier that winter in the Southeast, the species’ central calving grounds. The addition bumps the year’s calf total to 11. While still only about half the annual average (“Slow year for right whales,” April 8), the find is a morale-booster for scientists monitoring the highly imperiled whales. It’s not known where or when the calf was born. But the mother, nicknamed “Baldy,” was first seen with a calf in April 1974, meaning she’s probably at least 50 years old. This is her ninth known calf.

Right Whale Festival logo

   While North Atlantic right whales will be arriving off Georgia’s coast by December, the Right Whale Festival in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15 will kick off the calving season. The free event includes a beach cleanup, runs, music, kids’ activities and vendors, all geared to raising awareness about right whales and the threats they face, such as ship strikes and entanglement in commercial fishing gear.
   Twenty-seven federally protected species are due “five-year reviews” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure their classifications under the Endangered Species Act are correct. Species found in Georgia include the endangered reticulated flatwoods salamander and southern acornshell, triangular kidneyshell, Coosa moccasinshell, southern pigtoe mussels, and the threatened frosted flatwoods salamander and Alabama moccasinshell and fine-lined pocketbook mussels.
   Georgia landowners will only have to sign up once for Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and special conservation options such as Working Lands for Wildlife and the Longleaf Pine Initiative. The simplified application is aimed at making it easier for constituents to understand and participate in agency programs. The deadline to apply is Dec. 19.
   Florida’s loggerhead sea turtle nest totals remained high this summer and leatherback turtle nesting reached a new record for the Sunshine State. Though nest counts for loggerheads, the Southeast’s primary nesting sea turtle, vary annually, the overall trend in Florida, as in Georgia, is positive, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
   Names in the news: The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council Ranger has named DNR Ranger 1st Class David Brady its 2013 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Brady, who often patrols offshore as captain of the Law Enforcement Division’s SAFE vessel and a Contender patrol boat, led or took part in five federal fisheries cases referred to NOAA Fisheries the previous year. A new book by Ron Lance, "Haws: A guide to hawthorns of the southeastern United States," provides a detailed reference to the 62 hawthorn species and 144 subspecific taxa and hybrids known to occur in the region. Lance, a longtime naturalist, is a biologist and land manager with North American Land Trust.
   Coming up:
Oct. 16-18 – 36th annual Gopher Tortoise Council Conference, Chehaw Park, Albany.
Oct. 21-24  10th Biennial Longleaf Conference, Ninth Eastern Native Grass Symposium and National Prescribed Fire Council meeting, Mobile, Ala.
Oct. 28 – Land Manager’s Lunch: The Safe Harbor Program and Southern Quail Lands, Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, Tallahassee, Fla. Register by Oct. 24. Lisa Baggett, (850) 893-4153 (ext. 241).
Nov. 7-9 – Fall BOW program (Becoming an Outdoors-Woman), Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, Mansfield.
Nov. 15Right Whale Festival, Sea Walk Pavilion, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

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   "UGA to study endangered Atlantic sturgeon in three Georgia rivers," UGA Today
   "Ohoopee Dunes WMA adds new features," The Forest-Blade (Swainsboro) 
   (+video) "Rare peregrine falcon rescued in Moultrie," WALB-TV (Albany)
   "Are Montana’s invasive fish in for a shock?" Wildlife Conservation Society
   (+video) "Scrambling birds’ brains: Could this toxic algae offer clues to human diseases?" Environmental Health News (citing DNR's Jim Ozier)
   "Q&A with Henry Paulson: dialogues on the environment," Mark's Desk (blog by The Nature Conservancy CEO and President Mark Tercek)
   "Eastern hemlocks that have survived insect infestation have a story to tell," Virginia Tech
   "Box turtles will be hatching soon in Savannah, rest of Georgia," Savannah Morning News (column by Dirk J. Stevenson of The Orianne Society)
   (+video) "Videos hint at why tree bats may die at wind turbines," ScienceNews (citing study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
   "Georgia Southwestern University group hopes to help Muckalee crayfish fend off invasive species," The Albany Herald
   "Fishing club supports environmental education (at DNR's Arrowhead Environmental Education Center)," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
   "Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass," Duke University
   "Conservation efforts help keep Georgia aster off endangered species list," Southeast Green


   “Talking Nature Tuesday” with Berkeley Boone, DNR Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center
   "Hawk vs. drone," The Washington Post
   "The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation," Boone and Crockett Club
    "Alligator nest hatching on Jekyll Island," Applied Wildlife Conservation Lab

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Parting shot

Game Management Section booth at CoastFest (Nancy Butler/CRD)

The 20th annual CoastFest drew a crowd of about 9,500 to DNR Coastal
Regional Headquarters in Brunswick on Saturday. Entertainment varied from
a bluegrass band to reptiles and raptors, with special exhibits such as walk-thru
butterfly garden and a 4,000-gallon saltwater aquarium provided by funding from
the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation. The 2015 CoastFest is set for Oct. 3.


** Masthead: Scarlet calamint flowers. Alan Cressler
** Sandhill rosemary at Ohoopee Dunes. Marc Del Santro
** Scarlet calamint. Alan Cressler
** Black and yellow Argiope spider. Terry W. Johnson
** Barred owl. Josiah Lavender
** DNR's Trina Morris conducting a cave bats survey. Pete Pattavina/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
** Learning about wildlife, including a young alligator, at the DNR Game Management Section booth at CoastFest. Nancy Butler/Coastal Resources Division

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